Thursday, March 31, 2011

Illinois and their modest HSR efforts, or "Delusion."

One man's opinion. In a blog.  Like this blog. Yet, what is pointed out in this blog entry, describing the high-speed rail situation in Illinois, is almost a cloned version of what we will experience here in California. 

Well, not entire a clone; there are some differences.  In Illinois, the distances are shorter and the train is slower.  But, the game's the same.  Same rules, same winners and losers.  There, like here, it's not about the train; it's about the money.

Please understand, if they build what is described in this article, it will be a bargain compared to what we are in for in this state. Basically, they are upgrading their Amtrak system with faster (110 mph) trains.  I assume they won't be building dedicated HSR tracks.  Also, what we can gather from the article is that the rail corridor will not be totally grade separated and that there can be various speed limits.  That's why it's such a bargain; it will cost only $20.5 million per mile.  Such a deal!

In California, with dedicated, grade separated tracks and closed corridor, it will be more like $70 to $100 million per mile, with mountains and valleys for our train to cut through and go over.  In our population regions, there will be hugely expensive land acquisitions and complicated alignments adding to the costs.

And here is why this project falls along a political divide between the two Parties.  Freight rail is cost/effective and profitable. The freight carriers maintain their own track corridors.  They have investors, like Warren Buffett.  

But, that's not the case for HSR, or other passenger rail.  It's either a major money loser and drag on the economy and public funds, or the tickets will cost far too much and almost no one will ride it.  The passenger rail system is between a rock and a hard place.  That's where it's been and HSR will be no different.  With no investors unless the government promises interest payments for the investors, and those will have to be paid for by taxpayers.

You don't have to be a Republican to oppose a bad deal such as this. 

This blogger, in his last thought, below, attacks "liberal elites" for all these problems.  Please note that, as a liberal "elite," I don't quite agree with that.  Actually, I don't know what it means.  I acknowledge 'liberal' but there's nothing 'elite' about me.  But, never mind.  Our otherwise insightful author merely betrays his political/ideological inclinations.  And, Mr. Boese is right, Obama is my President, just as he is the duly elected President of all of us, including this author.  That could change in 2012. 

Free Republic

High Speed Delusion 
American Thinker ^ | March 28, 2011 | Al Boese 

Posted on March 28, 2011 8:56:46 AM PDT by jazusamo

Last Tuesday, March 22nd, saw two Obama high speed rail shills, hapless Illinois Governor Quinn and the loyal, ebullient, camera centric Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, shamelessly announcing with pride, the next phase of the so called Chicago to St Louis High Speed Rail project. The new $1.2 billion phase is to run from Bloomington, IL to Dwight IL, a distance of 58.5 miles of what could only be described as the "Billion Dollar Train to Nowhere." Folks, that amounts to a mere $20,618,556 per mile, with an estimated heart stopping speed of 110 mph. Google Map estimates driving between these destinations to be 1 hour 10 minutes. This breakthrough rail line will take only 32 minutes, assuming your actual destination in either Bloomington or Dwight is the train station itself.

A guess: a remote train stop would not be your final travel objective. Consequently one must add some time to travel to the train station at both ends of the journey to calculate total elapsed time. If you are lucky, that could add 10 or more minutes at each end, so let's say a total of 25 minutes just getting to and from the stations.

Oh yes, to avoid missing the train, careful planning requires some contingency time be built into your travel plan to account for traffic slowdowns or even a freight train. That is another 5 to10 minutes. This adds up to about 1 hr 7 minutes, really close to the Google Map estimate. Furthermore, how often is this high speed train going to run and will it actually stop at Dwight?

Driving offers infinite departure and arrival times, a significant option of convenience, not to be overlooked. As to cost, driving that distance at a full up cost of $0.58 per mile will be a total of $33.93. The California High Speed Rail operating cost estimate is $2.30 per passenger mile, which could be used in our analysis. Therefore our theoretical trip between Dwight and Bloomington will cost $134.55, about $100.00 more than a drive.

Finally, the last flaw in the project is the rail congestion from Chicago to Joliet, some 40 miles, where delays and limited speeds are the norm. Without a completely separate and dedicated track system, any passenger service is low speed between these points, irrespective of the condition of the track or the rated speed of the locomotion equipment. In other words, this project is a sham and deceitful.

There is one other and troubling aspect of this mystical and politically correct new transportation system: it costs billions of dollars neither the federal government nor the State of Illinois has to spend. All known and available funds are committed to spending for current and future needs and obligations. Since no private investment is even a remote possibility without government guarantees, this becomes yet another state and federal supported obligation on top of the already unsustainable commitments we are facing. It is time to recognize the futility of it all and cease the insanity of universal High Speed Passenger Rail.

High speed passenger rail, and I mean high speed at 150 + mph is desirable and in substantial use in such dense geography as the northeast corridor between Boston, Connecticut New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. With all due respect to St Louis, is there that much demand to go there, or anywhere in between? The same can be said for Detroit or Minneapolis, more Obama targets for high speed rail, in addition to the Orlando-Tampa FL route and the favorite, LA to the SF Bay Area.

Make no mistake, rail is ideally suited, and the mode of choice, for moving freight long distances. The Association of American Railroads states that the average freight train can move one ton of cargo 480 miles on one gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the freight of 280 trucks. As to fuel consumption, pollution, highway congestion, safety, cost and road damage, there is no comparison, rail wins on all accounts, including delivery time. Additionally, railroads are private, taxpaying ventures, requiring no subsidies. If high speed passenger rail were so compelling, why are there no initiatives by private sector railroads to fill a demand? The simple answer: there is no economic case, therefore, no demand for high speed passenger rail in America, period.

The mystery remains; why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs? No reasonable economic case has found the facts to support the idea. It is an inexplicable, irrational, yet passionate desire of the political left to impose high speed rail on this country. Is it Europe or Japan envy, or is the concept of freedom of choice and flexibility that the automobile and our highways offer, just too much to bear for the elite liberals and their President?